The right to self-defense is in line with our most basic understanding of freedom and what it means to be an American citizen. Our unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is guarded by our basic God-given right to defend ourselves, our families and others around us from those who wish to do us harm.
Recently, the Ohio Senate has undergone a passionate debate regarding our right to self-defense and the legal recourse that can be taken against an individual who finds themselves in the unthinkable situation of having to use lethal force against another person to save themselves. This debate revolved around two very important issues: 1) the burden-of-proof when using lethal force in self-defense and 2) the duty to retreat when facing an attacker.
As a co-sponsor of House Bill 228, I proudly voted to override Governor Kasich's veto and shift the burden of proof off of the individual who acts in self-defense, and put that burden onto the prosecution. Simply put, every individual is innocent until proven guilty, and it is the job of the prosecution to prove them guilty. It is not the burden of the accused to prove themselves innocent. This in an obvious change that reaffirms our right to self defense, and puts Ohio in line with all 49 other states. I am proud of what we were able to accomplish before the end of the year.
The next provision—which ultimately was not included in House Bill 228—needs clarification as it will surely come up again in the next General Assembly. Commonly known as "stand your ground," this legislation is more accurately described as a duty to retreat bill.
It is a major misconception propagated by certain interest groups that this legislation takes away a person's responsibility to deescalate a situation prior to an attack. The reality is, it does not give Ohioans license to kill without consequence, as these groups have claimed.
One cannot provoke, escalate or in any other way be the cause of an attack and then claim self-defense, and this legislation would not have changed that. This provision simply gives an individual the leniency to make the best decision they can when facing a crisis situation on how to improve their chances of survival when their life is genuinely in danger. When seconds or less make the difference, not having the confidence in the right to self defense could cost innocent lives.
One should never have to give up their right to self defense for a duty to retreat. Your brain is your best weapon against violence and attacks. Avoiding dangerous situations and deescalation are always encouraged and essential. However, when the time comes to defend what is most important, we must be able to rely on our right to self-defense, and Ohioans deserve the confidence to know the law is on their side.